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Facts of the Case

Discuss about the Annetts v Australian Stations Pty Ltd (2000).

In the present case, two matters were decided together. The common elements in case of both these cases were that they were related with the thought of negligence and the damage caused to the plaintiff was the psychiatry injury. That was not related with any other type of damage to the person or goods caused by the purportedly tortuous conduct. Therefore in this case, the alleged negligence was related with the employer who had failed to provide a safe system over to the employee. In this case, the employee was a minor aged 16 years. In 1986, the parents of the minor over the applicants in this case had agreed to allow their son to work for the respondent. The work was going on in outback Australia. They disregard the applicants have relied on the assurances that their son will be well cared for. However, in Dec. 1986, their son went absent under the conditions where it was apparent that the boy was in significant hazard. The police informed Mr. Annetts regarding this situation, on the phone and he fainted. After a prolonged search for the boy in which the parents of the boy also participated, his blood soaked hat was discovered in January 1987. Later on, in April 1987 the body of the deceased was also discovered in the desert. He had passed away of dehydration, hypothermia and exhaustion. Again, the applicants, the parents of the boy were informed on the telephone. Later on, a photograph was shown to Mr Annetts which was identified by him as his son. Under these circumstances, psychiatry injury was suffered by the parents of the deceased boy.


In this case, it was alleged by the applicants that their son had expired as a result of the negligence of the respondent. The database can be identified from the fact that James was placed as his own caretaker in an isolated property. Similarly, he was provided with a defective and unsuitable vehicle. At the same time there was failure to provide training to James regarding the skills that are necessary for surviving in such an isolated place. There was also a failure to apply or preserve useful radio communication with the boy and to inform the police probably in case of his vanishing.

Though it was not devised with specifically, the unspecified effects in fact include the fact that not only a grief reaction had suffered by the applicants, but they also suffered and entrenched a psychiatric state. Though, as explained by Ipp J, it was not exactly specified when the condition was sustained by the applicants. In this regard, the Full Court came up with two alternative situations. The first was that psychiatric injury would have been suffered by Mr. and Mrs. Annetts on since December 1986 when they were informed regarding the disappearance of their son from his job location and it was believed that he had absconded. The second was that the psychiatry injury was suffered by the couple when they ultimately came to know regarding the death of James in April 1987, and the injury was caused as a result of the development along with the buildup effect of the previous happenings. 

Legal Arguments

While looking for special leave to appeal, it was stated by Annets that common law for negligence does not and ought not to recognize "sudden shock" or "direct perception" rules have a pre-condition for liability (Mullany and Handford, 1993). Moreover, they also stated that the normal fortitude stipulation is no more than a feature of traditional condition of reasonable foreseeability. Therefore it does not act as an independent control apparatus related with cases dealing with psychiatric harm that has been inflicted negligently.


Keeping in view the courts below, it was held that intermediate court should not develop the law. Therefore, it confirmed the conventional necessities of direct perception and sudden shock. In fact, this decision can be described as a conservative decision when it is contrasted with the other first instance and appellate judgments delivered by the courts in Australia during the last few years. However, five of the seven judges in High Court were of the opinion that neither sudden shock nor direct perception can be considered as the limitations that have been placed on the extent of reasonable foreseeability. Toward that the defendants had a duty of care towards Mr. and Mrs. Annets, because a sufficient relationship was present between the parties, particularly in view of the fact that promises made to Mrs. Annetts and because under the situation, the psychiatry injury can be described as reasonably foreseeable. However different approach was adopted by McHugh J. K. according to him the ordinary rules dealing with psychiatry injury were significant only when a pre-existing relationship was present between the parties, while in the present case, there was relationship of employment between the defendant and the deceased son of the appellant according to which the defendant has a duty to take care under contract and in tort. Moreover, according to his view, for contract was present with the parents, the assurances result in a duty to supervise the son in order to evade causing any injury to the parents and was the consideration for is going to the station. In this regard, only Callinan J had regained the requirements related with straight insight and sudden shock, however, he was successful in watering down so as to arrive at the finding that they have been satisfied on the fact.

Hence the Full Court decision delivered in this case appears to symbolize a return to more conventional approach. However, the High Court resolutely rejected this view. It has been accepted that the aftermath concept in unsatisfactory and artificial way of the limiting the limits of recovery and that in certain situations, the psychiatry injury that is the result of the message regarding accident by another can be foreseen (Mullany and Handford, 1999). This does not mean that direct perception has become irrelevant while applying the foreseeability test. It merely means that there is no rule which excludes the duty of care where straight insight is not present. As a result, it was stated by the court that the limitation of direct perception was never firmly accepted by the High Court. In a earlier judgment delivered in Jaensch v Coffey (1984), the only judge endorsing this view was Brennan J. has resulted in the view of the court, any rule according to which the liability for psychiatry injury has been made provisional on geographical or temporal distance from the upsetting incident, or regarding the method through which the plaintiff came to know regarding such an incident was sufficient for producing arbitrary outcomes and excluding the meritorious claims. In this way, relying on the previous judgment of Kirby J, the court stated that the rule was not related with the capabilities of recent communications

Court Decisions


Under the circumstances, it was mentioned by the court that space from the stressful incident and the methods of communication or requiring of information related with such incident can be relevant for evaluating reasonable foreseeability and distance of damages in action for carelessly causing psychiatric injury under the common law. However, they are not in themselves conclusive for deciding liability (Mullany, 1998). To reason in any other way will be to transform a factor that there is otherwise in favor of finding a duty of care under certain circumstances in a general pre-requisition for a duty in all the cases. Therefore in such a case there is a risk of the attribution of disproportionate significance to what is no more than negligible situations.

Under these circumstances, getting into the facts of this case, it can be stated that the relations present Mr. and Mrs. Annetts and their 16 years son, as well as the assurance given to the parents, lacking which they could not allow the boy to go to such an isolated station, thousands of kilometers away from home, made a compelling case. This does not mean that the High Court would have certainly confirmed previous decision in which it was stated by the courts that there was a duty in the absence of direct perception. For instance, in Petrie v Dowling (1992), the mother of the child was informed by a nurse that the daughter had died, did not have any earlier relation with the hospital, the High Court may well have found sufficient under circumstances to satisfy the best of foreseeability. However in another case (Reeve v Brisbane City Council), the wife experienced rigorous shock when she was told regarding the death of her husband are the bus depot where he was working and there was no exact comparable of the assurances that have been given in Annetts, but it appears to be reasonable to assume that it was reasonably foreseeable for the defendants that the news is going to be communicated to the boyfriend that she may suffer some kind of psychiatric injury. Even though it needs to be confess that the general proximity this has now been rejected by the court, yet it was still a significant issue in the judgment.

Under these circumstances, it was stated by the Court that the Full Court had made an error when it failed to apply to normal principles related with the tort of negligence, unrestricted by fake constructions that were based on the circumstances that the illness regarding which the redressal wanted was merely psychiatric. Therefore, specifically neither the lack of direct perception of the applicants regarding the death of their son or its immediate aftermath, nor the circumstances under which it can be said that the applicants could not have suffered a sudden shock is fatal for the claim made by the applicants. According to the general principles of negligence that are applied to the facts assumed in this case, it can be said that the respondent had a duty of care towards the applicants. The preliminary issue formulated by the court needs to be resolved in the affirmative.


The court also stated that the connections present among the parties reveal that there was a duty of care present. A predecessor relationship present among plaintiff and defendant (like the relationship of employer and employee present in NSW v Seedman (2002), particularly where the latter had assumed some accountability towards the former for avoiding exposing them to the risk of psychiatric injury, may provide the basis for bringing in duty in the present case.

The duty to avoid psychiatric injury in such circumstances, find some flawed correlation in the cases of negligent misstatement that had resulted in pure economic loss, where the duty of care arises on account of the assumption of responsibility on the part of the defendant and the fact that the plaintiff's have reasonably relied on it.

The court noted the fact that the applicants will not have any means of defending themselves against the danger of psychiatric injury that eventually took place. The control over the risk of injury to their son and the risk of resultant psychiatric injury to the applicants, was considered by the court to be significant, perhaps exclusive.

Therefore it was the decision of the court that the application for special leave needs to be granted in this case and the appeal permitted. At the same time the orders of the Full Court were set aside. It was ordered that the appeal to that Court should be allowed. 

References

N J Mullany and P R Handford, (1999) “Moving the Boundary Stone by Statute: The Law Commission on Psychiatric Illness” 22 UNSWLJ 350

N J Mullany and P R Handford, 1993, Tort Liability for Psychiatric Damage, The Law Book Co Ltd, Sydney, 183-191;

N J Mullany, 1998, “Negligently Inflicted Psychiatric Injury and the Means of Communication of Trauma – Should It Matter?” in N J Mullany and A M Linden (eds), Torts Tomorrow – A Tribute to John Fleming, LBC Information Services, Sydney, 162

Case Law

Annetts v Australian Stations Pty Ltd (2000) 23 WAR 25

Frost v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1998] QB 254

Morgan v Tame (2000) 49 NSWLR 21

NSW v Seedman (2002) NSWCA 119

Petrie v Dowling [1992] 1 Qd R 284

Reeve v Brisbane City Council [1995] 1 Qd R 661

Jaensch v Coffey (1984) 155 CLR 549

Cite This Work

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[Accessed 21 February 2024].

My Assignment Help. 'Annetts V Australian Stations Pty Ltd (2000) Case Analysis' (My Assignment Help, 2019) <https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/annetts-v-australian-stations-pty-ltd-case-study> accessed 21 February 2024.

My Assignment Help. Annetts V Australian Stations Pty Ltd (2000) Case Analysis [Internet]. My Assignment Help. 2019 [cited 21 February 2024]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/annetts-v-australian-stations-pty-ltd-case-study.

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